An 11-year-old girl who has been fundraising for the Downtown Eastside for years has recently collected $500 worth of sandwich tokens for those in need.
Keanna Lai said it’s important for her to give back to the community and provide support for many experiencing homelessness.
The tokens were purchased from Save On Meats on West Hastings Street, which also houses a registered charity called A Better Life Foundation. The tokens are redeemable for a meal at the diner.
“I started with a mini garage sale where I sold (old toys and clothes). I also had a lemonade stand,” Lai told Global News on Wednesday.
“Now, I am thinking of doing bake sales or selling my arts and crafts.”
Lai, who is in Grade 6, said she started fundraising in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. She started by donating socks.
“I feel bad for them … I’ve always taken for granted that I get meals and live in a warm house — this is one of the ways I can support the community,” she said.
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Her mom, Grace Kuo, said it is in her daughter’s nature to help others in need, especially those most vulnerable in Vancouver.
“We’re feeling quite proud. It’s an initiative that she’s taken on and she’s glad that she’s kind of continued it,” Kuo said.
“We talk about how we can help others in our communities as much as we can.”
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Kuo said the family and her daughter feel it’s important for them to help those in need in the Downtown Eastside, specifically.
“We just think it’s part of our community. We drive by it to get downtown and it’s a place where we’ve had … she’s had (some) really positive interactions,” Kuo said.
“I don’t think it’s as scary as people make it (out to be) and we’re out here encouraging others to do the same.”
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Lai distributed some of the tickets in the neighbourhood on Wednesday.
Her efforts have not gone unnoticed by A Better Life Foundation, whose Plenty of Plates, Daily Meal and Recovery programs all help improve food security among those who need it most.
“Kiana’s become a really close and valued member of our team,” said executive director Ash McLeod.
“She rolls up her sleeves and comes and helps, but also carries on the mission on her own time and spreads the gospel of what we’re doing to all types of different audiences.”
McLeod said Lai’s initiative is impressive, and has realized that at early age, she has the ability and means to contribute meaningfully to her community.
“Just today, her alone — this 11-year-old — will be providing 130 meals to people who otherwise wouldn’t have had one, and that’s a massive deal.”
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